Bob Rae says he’s been in talks with a regional First Nations council to work together on the Ring of Fire. But the interim Liberal leader couldn’t say exactly what his role would be.
“I don’t think it’s clear yet. I have had meetings with the Matawa tribal council. They’ve asked me to work with them,” Rae said in Thunder Bay Monday.
Matawa needs to discuss and negotiate with the province further before he could determine how he would work with them. But as an MP, Rae said he has already looked into the process of conflict of interest should he take on any sort of role after a new Liberal leader is chosen next month.
“I have begun the discussion but that’s not by any means completed yet,” he said. Rae spoke to the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce Monday at the Travelodge Airlane, saying the Ring of Fire has the potential to be as great or greater than mineral discoveries near Sudbury were 100 years ago.
While there is great prosperity to be had, Rae said development has to be done right. That means sustainability. “The environmental tests can’t be the tests of long ago days. They have to be stronger,” he said.
Canada shouldn’t apologize for its natural resources or its desire to extract them. Rae said he understands there are people who are instinctively opposed to mining because of dangers or environmental hazards.
But no one wants to pollute the James Bay Lowlands. And with modern mining techniques, Rae said no one should have to in order to develop there.
“That would be a terrible mistake,” he said. “The technology is available today that these do not have to be polluting industries at all.”
It also means making sure the prosperity is for everyone, including First Nations communities that have historically been marginalized by development.
“Understand that it isn’t going to happen the way things happened before. That isn’t legal anymore. It isn’t the law of Canada anymore and it’s something that has to be reflected in how we do business,” Rae said.
In his discussions with Matawa, Rae said two things were made clear.
The communities want development but they don’t want to be sidelined. They also need to be consulted on infrastructure discussions, such as whether a road or railway will be built.
A road would help isolated communities connect with mainstream Canada in a significant way Rae said.
“If we can break down the isolation in communities that’s a very positive thing,” he said.